Clothing stains are often tell-tale signs of a summer well enjoyed – Italian gelato served at an outdoor cafe, fresh strawberries from the local farmers’ market, or chilled wine sipped at sunset. They also present a cleaning challenge with varied methods of removal recommended for different types of stains. Here’s a quick guide to help you (and your wardrobe) look your best and ready for the next adventure.

Sunscreen. Most sunscreen products are greasy which requires pre-treating the stain with a clear color dish soap or a grease and stain remover like Lestoil. Gently dab it on with a clean, white cotton cloth or towel before machine washing in hot water (double check garment label to make sure this is safe for the fabric).

Perspiration. Sweat stains occur when the aluminum in your antiperspirant or deodorant combines with the salt in your sweat. To prevent them, the best defense is a good offense. Apply a stain remover (lemon juice works too) to the armpit area of your shirt or dress each time before washing. This will help stop the stains from forming, which are much more difficult to remove once they set in.

Grass. Most grass stains will come out on their own in the wash. To be on the safe side, or for ground-in grass, pre-treat any signs of green with a stain remover. Then very gently scrub the pre-treated areas before throwing in the wash.

Bicycle Grease. Baby powder is the perfect blotting agent for grease stains left by bicycle chains. First, sprinkle the powder on the stain and then gently blot with a paper towel to remove any excess grease. Next, pre-treat using dish soap on the front and back of the stain before machine washing. Be sure to wash it alone to prevent grease transfer to other garments.

Ketchup. As soon as you can, dab the stain with cold water, and then sponge with white vinegar before machine washing using a color-safe detergent with bleach.

Mustard. Use a blunt-edge knife, or the edge of a credit card, to scrape off any excess mustard. Then pre-treat with a stain remover and machine wash in hot water (as long as the fabric can tolerate).

Strawberries. Soak your shirt or pants for 30 minutes in a mixture of one quart of water, one tablespoon white vinegar, and ½ teaspoon liquid laundry detergent before washing as usual.

Tomatoes. Rinse the stain with cold water before using a sponge and white vinegar to buff out any remaining hint of color. If the stain is still there, use a stain remover to pre-treat before washing.

Avocado. First use a blunt-edge knife or the edge of a credit card to scrape off any excess green. Next, rinse the garment in cold water before pre-treating by rubbing dish soap into the stain. Then wash as usual.

Red Wine. Blot the stain with a clean white towel or cloth and then add table salt to absorb any excess liquid. Rinse thoroughly in hot water before machine washing.

Ice Cream. As soon as the stain hits your shirt, use cold water and a clean cloth to spot treat it. (commercial wipes like Shout Wipe also work.) Next, apply stain remover before soaking it in the sink with a teaspoon of an enzyme-based detergent (like Tide Stain Release) for 30 minutes. After that, you can machine wash.


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